Antennas to Heaven

Flashback 1: Learning a Thing or Two

March 14, 2003

Y’know, usually when somebody asks you “where were you when,” it’s something big. Like, where were you when JFK was shot, or where were you on 9/11, like that. Nobody ever says, where were you when you found out your dad was a wiseguy? But that’s the shit that sticks with me.

I guess the story’s gonna sound pretty tame compared to how it could’ve gone down. The information age, huh? Takes all the drama out. But I was twelve years old, it was the spring of 2003, and I was at school, which was my least favorite place in the fuckin universe. Good old Nativity Mission. This little Irish shit named Brandon Cleary started with me, calling me greaseball and telling me how his grandmother always said Italians were no-good hustlers, all this. And my father had always told me, if somebody messed with me and mine, to do em one better and teach em not to do it again. And my Uncle Joey always said us Italians had to stick together and remember our pride. So I slammed Cleary’s face into the concrete, he lost a tooth, and I shoved him into a trash can. Sister Audrey came out to break it up and send Babyface Cocksucker to the nurse, turns out he had a mild concussion. He deserved it, too.

Anyway, Sister Audrey was red in the face, foaming at the mouth pissed. She went off on me about Jesus turning the other cheek and all I can remember thinking was, didn’t Jesus kick the shit out of some bankers in a temple one time? Doesn’t that mean I actually did just what the Son of God would’ve done? Gimme a break, I was twelve.

She dragged me to Father Dominic’s office and I was ready to give him a piece of my mind, but he said to me, Adrian, the only one you need to ask for forgiveness is God, and we’re not gonna make a big deal out of this incident, alright? You go back to class and then when you get home, you make sure you tell your father what I said here today. Now, I wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but I knew better than to think that was any kind of normal. Mikey Spinelli got a week of detention just for making fun of a nun. And because even then I didn’t know when to keep my mouth shut, I asked Father Dominic why. He said, well, Adrian, I trust you not to do this kind of thing again. Even at the time, I thought that sounded pretty fuckin optimistic. So I asked him what he wanted me to tell my dad for. He said, he and my father had an agreement, and he wanted me to convey the message that he was doing his part. And when I asked what kind of agreement he told me to ask my father.

Like Dad would’ve told me shit. Please.

So I asked Ma instead. First she told me to go do my homework, yeah right. Then when I wouldn’t take nothing for an answer she said, Adrian, stop asking so many stupid questions, and what did you do at school anyway that you’re asking me this now? I said I didn’t do nothin. And Carmen, tiny little angel that she was, backed me up on that bald-faced lie, knowing jack shit about it. Ma wasn’t having any of it though.

Later that night I overheard them arguing, Dad and Ma. She’d called the school and Father Dominic gave her the runaround, and she said, Johnny, this is your fault, that Adrian gets away with this crap. And Dad said, if that fenook up at the school ever lays a hand on Adrian, he’s done for. At the time I figured he meant, y’know, fired. Dunno if Ma did too, but she said Johnny, that ain’t the point and you know it. She said Dad’s work made people afraid of us and it was ruining the kids’ discipline. Now, you gotta understand, he used to tell us he was a traveling insurance salesman. So imagine me, this twelve year old jamook who don’t know shit from shit, hearing people are afraid of us because of his father’s work.

At first I just thought she was full of it, but when I really stopped to think, y’know, I realized. Other kids at school didn’t have all these uncles who weren’t related to em. And I’d snuck into my parents’ room enough times to know Dad carried a piece in his briefcase, what insurance salesman goes in heavy to work? So, I got to looking on the internet about the Giovanni and everything. Like I said, the information age, whaddya gonna do?

Maybe some kids would’ve been scared, or pissed off, or something. Carmen was. Me? Hell no, I thought that was the greatest news since the Yanks won the World Series twice in a row. I went to my father later that night and just asked him, point blank, Dad, are you in the mafia? He looked at me and kinda shrugged, and said, maybe. So I asked him to teach me, y’know, to shoot and whatever else. And he said, sure, kid, you figured it out, you deserve it. Nobody makes a mole hill out of a mountain like my father, let me tell you.

So that’s it, that’s the story. Kind of a let down, I guess, but there it is.

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